Charles Sturt University coach Pat Noonan says signing Ben Keith from Collingullie-Glenfield Park could prove particularly valuable for the Bushpigs after the departure of captain Diarmid Cleary.
Cleary was a best-and-fairest winner at CSU and a rock in their backline as the club rose to Farrer League finalists last season. However, he's headed back to Victoria, adding to a list of losses which includes classy midfielder Rob Herzfeld, ruckman-forward Vas Seker and the consistent Zac McDonald and Shane Carroll.
"We've got a few blokes who have left and we've definitely got a vacuum of spots in the backline," Noonan said.
"I do think Ben plays well across half-back but he also might have a run in the midfield or on a wing."
Noonan has crossed paths with Keith and his twin brother Sean at Collingullie and through the Greater Western Sydney Giants Academy set-up.
Keith was a grand finalist with the Demons in 2017 and played nine senior games last year, including two finals before having to make way for key returns in the decider.
"It looks they've developed into good young men and I'm excited to see what Ben can do with his footy this year," Noonan said.
The Bushpigs coach believes there are openings to make a big impression given the significance of some of their losses.
"There's four or five blokes who were all probably in the top 10 of our first grade side really but it gives the opportunity for other blokes to stand up and have a crack," Noonan said.
He's hoping they'll unearth some key finds among the arrivals for the university year. A dust storm wiping out Tuesday's training didn't help but Noonan said he's seen a couple of promising prospects so far.
The club is also still in the hunt for a couple of late pick-ups.
CSU have two practice matches planned, against Narrandera on Saturday week and Turvey Park on March 23. Their season begins at home to Temora on April 6.